Monday, May 9th, 2011

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There is a lot of employment legislation in this country. Employees have a lot of rights, and employers a lot of responsibilities. But what happens if employers shirk those rights?

Well, if you're in a union, your union will help. And if your workforce is mostly unionised, as an employer you are much less likely to try to shaft your employees. But what if you are one of the 74% of UK employees who doesn't belong to a union? What options are open to you if you employer breaks the law with regard to your rights?

You can, of course, take matters into your own hands. No, not with a baseball bat, I mean you can instigate legal proceedings yourself. Unfortunately, this is rife with problems. Even if you have some legal training employment law is a complex area, fraught with strict and soft deadlines and rules of evidence and such which can cock up an entire case for the unwary. You could hire a solicitor, but that either takes money, or for your case to be big and important enough for them to take you on no-win-no-fee.

Then there's the CAB. Now, the CAB do some marvellous work (I used to do voluntary work for them in my pre-motherhood days), but they are massively overworked and underfunded, their opening hours are tiny, and they just don't have the capacity to deal with the extent of this, and even if they did, all they can do is help you to do stuff yourself, they can't do it for you.

So, for your average Jane/Joe in a non-unionised minimum wage job, whose employer is (for random example) not giving them proper breaks, or paid holiday, or the paperwork they are due, it's exceedingly difficult to actually do anything about it. And given the parlous state of the job market at the moment, any attempt to assert one's rights which results in the sack might well leave one unable to find a job for many months. Sure, you can bring an unfair dismissal suit, but that will take months and in the meantime you are left with no income.

And even if a person does manage to get enforcement of their rights, that doesn't stop the (almost certainly now ex) employer from exploiting other workers.

I think what we need here is an enforcement agency to make sure employers are sticking to their legal obligations - some sort of Quango. Employment Law Enforcement People Helping All Nice Tradespeople? OK, perhaps a different acronym is a good thing. But I think the idea is a good one. If someone is breaking noise regs, you call the noise abatement team. If someone is creating a hazard to health with their polluting ways you call the environmental health. But if you're being exploited at work, and you're not in a union...?

Any Lib Dems fancy helping me to put together a motion on this?

About This Blog

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.

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The Survivors' Trust - donate here
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